BERKELEY (KPIX 5) — Researchers at UC Berkeley and Lawrence Livermore Lab have created a new kind of 3D printer that could potentially manufacture living human organs.

Normal 3D printers work by building up thin layers of melted plastic to create solid objects, but it’s hard to get intricate designs to hold their form.

So, design engineers at Cal and Lawrence Livermore Lab got the idea of making 3D objects the same way a CT scan creates 3D images: by hitting a patient with X-rays from many different directions.

A prototype of the new 3D printer called the “CAL4.”

“So we thought, let’s reverse that process to create objects rather than imaging them, except we do it with light instead of with X-rays,” said Dr. Hayden Taylor, Lead Investigator of the UC Berkeley team.

The process is called volumetric printing. Rotating images of an object are beamed through a conventional video projector. The light is focused on a slowly rotating cylinder of gooey resin containing plastic molecules with a light sensitive-activator.

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As light accumulates in desired areas, the gel begins to harden and, in about 30 seconds, a solid 3D object is created–not in layers, but all at once.

“In this, when you see something emerging out of nowhere, it’s really magical…it is fun to watch,” said UC Berkeley team member Hossein Heidari.

Right now, the objects are rudimentary, but the technique opens up a world of possibilities. It can create objects inside of other objects or, as shown in one experiment, a handle around a metal screwdriver.

One more advantage of the process is that only the desired material hardens; the remaining resin is still usable, meaning almost zero waste is left over. But researchers are even imagining ways to use volumetric printing to arrange human cells into living organs, such as livers or kidneys.

“I think it might happen in the next decade that we may actually see a functional organ ready to be implanted or transplanted,” Heidari said.

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The labs hold the patent and are already discussing licensing the technology to the manufacturing industry as a new way to mass-produce high-quality plastic products in the future.

“But I think what’s really important about it in terms of transitioning to a commercial product is that the hardware associated with it is very inexpensive,” said Dr. Chris Spadaccini from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Now that the concept has been proven, the next challenge will be to increase the size, complexity and quality of objects being manufactured. That should open the door to all kinds of commercial uses.

The scientists say it will be a long journey before common objects are manufactured this way. But when they are, it will be because the first steps were taken in labs in the Bay Area.

Comments (40)
    1. C O Jones says:

      THank you, Mr. Scott. I will have a ham on cheese. Lots of Ham,
      Hold the Cheese

  1. Benny Roseland says:

    Is the purpose to build a whole new Bay Area? That would probably be easier than cleaning up the current one.

    1. Jack Inmanz says:

      Best. Post. Ever.

  2. gshumway7 says:

    Ummm . . . . No. FYI, “scientists” do not even know what life is, much less have a clue as to how to replicate it. Sounds like they’re trying to drum up interest in their next off-budget IPO.

  3. Steve Wilson says:

    How much is the ink cartridge on one of these printers?

  4. Alan Smithee says:

    I would like to order a copy of Angelina Jolie please.

  5. Kenneth Osbourn says:

    I think God already owns the patent rights.

  6. Morey Ladini says:

    Yes, half-way thru printing out an Angelina Jolie, you’d get an “out of ink” message on your computer.

  7. David Alster says:

    I already own one. I bought one online from China.

  8. Dorothy Nicklus says:

    Create life but will it be killed as soon as there is a heart beat? Just sayin..

  9. Jeff Sonnefield says:

    It’s a Star Trek Replicator.

  10. caffeineator says:

    Nothing can print “life”. Nobody knows what life is. To print a living thing, you have to start with a living thing. No Doctor Frankensteins yetl

  11. Greg Coe says:

    dim0crats will kill it, while it’s being formed.

  12. And if you believe that. I have a real story about a presidential candidate asking a foreign power to help him win presidency. LMAO MAGA

  13. Eric Sly says:

    What a lie.

  14. MathPhile says:

    It’s a huge difference between living cells and plastic. I think we are looking at at least 30years before we print hearts, livers and brains.

  15. Richard John Stacy says:

    So the medium would have to be living tissue. So Planned Parenthood will be happy to supply it? What a horrific development to come.

  16. Donley Hoogeveen says:

    Create life. Something only evolution or man can do. God or intelligent design is not possible???????????????

  17. Jim Hyland says:

    Once again, man is trying to play God in his rebellion. Things are getting extreme in the world, rise of violence, moral decline, public shaming and divisions everywhere. What is going on? God’s prolonged spiritual judgment. To learn more, check E Bible Fellowship.